People in Witham – 1793 to 1937


This table includes entries for Witham from the available Essex county directories published between 1793 and 1937. These county directories were usually large books. A long time ago I bought the one for 1937, and the women selling it expected me to be using it to sit on. They were not published every year, just occasionally. There were often combined lists for the whole county at the end. After the Second World War, a few publications appeared but they were different, they were lists of residents, probably adapted from the electoral registers.

In my table I have combined the two main parts of the Witham entries. One is the Commercial section, the longest of the two, containing people who had their own businesses. Secondly there were the Private Residents, a select list of a few “important” people. I haven’t included the other small specialised sections like schools, though they could be useful if I or anyone else ever had time to work on them. Each parish also had a long description of its facilities and its history. The description of Witham was usually along the lines of “Witham is a pleasant and ancient town”.

In most years the publisher was Kelly. So in the table, in the publisher column, I have only named the publishers that weren’t Kelly, such as Pigot, to avoid overcrowding the table. A blank in the publisher column therefore means that the publisher was Kelly.

In my table, the entries are arranged in order of the people’s surnames, then in order of the years for that name. So you can see a person’s ‘career’ or life-story all in one. Sometimes this procedure puts the names in a rather peculiar order, perhaps a result of my mistyping commas etc, but only by a small amount. 

Telephones did not arrive in Witham until 1904, and for many years only a very people had their own. So not many phone numbers appear in the directories. There was one phone at the Post Office for public use. There were telephone directories, but for a long time they were brief.

Street numbers are scarce in the directories. They did not exist in Witham until the 1920s. They were first proposed by the Post Office in 1912 but rejected by the Witham Urban District Council. The argument went to and fro until they were finally accepted in 1922. The Council decided where they should go, obtained the metal numbers, and fixed them to the doors. However, it seems that the grander roads in the town centre, like Collingwood Road, were spared this indignity, and numbering those was still being discussed in the 1930s; the houses there would usually have had names already.

Finally, a note about census returns – the various official numbers given in census returns don’t bear any relationship to these street numbers. The census had a system entirely of its own, based on its enumeration districts etc. When street numbering was being discussed in Witham, its usefulness for conducting the census was expected to be one of the benefits. But probably the census kept its own system too.